At only 26 years of age, Olympique Lyonnais defender Nicolas Nkoulou has decided to retire from the Cameroon national team with immediate effect, following the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title triumph in Gabon last month.
The defender was an important player during the recent success story at the Nations Cup, with Nkoulou rising up to score a decisive goal as a substitute in the AFCON final with a powerful header, contributing to the Indomitable Lions beating Egypt 2-1 to secure a fifth continental title.
Cameroon are not in a great position as far as the next World Cup in Russia next year is concerned, with qualification to the showpiece tournament hanging by a thread in a difficult qualifying group that includes Nigeria, Algeria and Zambia.
After two matches the Indomitable Lions are second in Group B with two points from two draws (with Algeria and Zambia), while the Super Eagles of Nigeria look set to upset the AFCON winners in the group with six points from their two encounters thus far.
Despite being in his prime, with his best professional soccer years likely ahead of him, Nkoulou has decided to take a break from the national team in what appears to be an international retirement.
“After winning the Africa Cup of Nations, I have a sense of having accomplished my duty for country,” Nkoulou explained, according to FootMercato.
“Since the beginning of my career, defending the colours of my country has always guided my steps. This mission has always constituted a motivating factor and one of my priorities,” he added.
“This decision has been difficult to take and I considered the advantages and disadvantages before arriving at a conclusion,” the defender admitted.
The former Cameroon captain has made 74 appearances for the Central Africans, and while this seems to be his retirement announcement, he also added that “A Lion never dies”, suggesting that a return in future may not be out of the question.
There is a sense from within Cameroon soccer circles that this team has achieved all that they can at the moment, with the AFCON victory being a high for the team that they have not experienced in years, coupled with the fact that World Cup qualification is increasingly unlikely at this stage.